Despite paperwork holdup, dredging expected to start on time

The Shell Rock River Watershed District is waiting on two permits from the Department of Natural Resources before they can continue moving forward to dredge the lake.

Shell Rock River Watershed District director of operations Andy Henschel estimated the confined disposal facility site, built to siphon off and settle the water and sediment mixture  dredged from the lake, is at 98 percent completion.

“One of the large items that I think that needs to be finished up was a requirement in the dam safety permit with the DNR,” Henschel said.

The CDF is a 40-acre basin with 25- to 28-foot side berms to contain sediment intended to be dredged out of Fountain Lake. The DNR has not granted the permit so far because the tiles that run underneath the berm did not meet DNR standards. According to Henschel, the DNR asks tiles to be cut and then plugged with cement to be accepted by the DNR. The contractor at the Shell Rock River Watershed District did not plug the tiles and will need to return to do so.

Henschel estimated this process will take two or three days, and he did not expect the process to delay the CDF’s timeline for completion. The cost of the plugging is covered by the initial contract and will require no further funds, Henschel said.

Additionally, the Shell Rock River Watershed District is waiting for a DNR dredge permit that Henschel said he expected six months ago.

“Obviously we’re anticipating some action from the DNR in the very, very near future,” district Administrator Brett Behnke said. “It’s not moving as fast as I’d like it to move.”

Behnke is also in charge of budget projections for the dredge, which he said he cannot complete until the paperwork has come through.

“It’s really holding up our progress,” Behnke said.

The Watershed District has not begun conversations with contractors because without the dredge permit, the district cannot accept bids, and without bids, the district has less direction on how much the total project cost will be.

Nonetheless, Behnke agreed with Henschel: The dredging should move forward on schedule.

“They really need to take action soon, though, if we’re going to stay to our projected timeline,” Behnke said. “It’s going to put us at the Watershed District under a little tighter time frame.”

Behnke expects the bidding process to take three to four weeks.

Contractors will decide whether to use their own dredges, to use the district’s dredge or to use a combination of both. Whether the dredge is used on the project, Behnke said the dredge is still an asset and could be used on additional dredging projects included in the 10-year water management plan.

According to Henschel, the watershed’s goal is to begin the one-to-three-year-long first phase of the Fountain Lake dredging in spring 2018. He pinpointed the first phase’s dredging at 635,000 cubic yards of sediment.

Henschel did not know how much of the lake will turn over, but said the permit will likely limit the discharge to 2 million gallons a day. Eighty percent of the material dredged from the lake will be water, and 20 percent will be sediment. After the sediment is deposited in the CDF, the water will be returned to the lake.

The Shell Rock River watershed district also:

• Was selected to receive $1.42 million funding from Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council to complete habitat restoration projects. If there is no change in bill wording, the district will receive the money after the next legislative session. This amount is roughly half of what the district applied for.

• Met with Bancroft Township to discuss loans for the Stables area water and sewer project. While it expects to be approved for funds, “those pots are currently empty,” civil and environmental engineer Phil Wacholz said. If the funding is delayed, the project may need to be completed in phases.

© 2015 Shell Rock River Watershed District, 305 S 1st Avenue, Albert Lea, MN 56007